INNOVATION: OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT
January 27, 2006
Electricity; the telephone; the automobile, the television; the Internet. Throughout our history America has stood for innovation. Indeed, Americans have pioneered the majority of the technology that we now consider fundamental to our modern lifestyle.
This tradition of ingenuity has given us a standard of living second to none. We, however, cannot afford an attitude of complacency. We must not squander the economic leadership our innovative spirit has provided us. Our prosperity depends on it.
With today's rapid spread of knowledge, competition has sprung up around the globe. Today, foreign companies and foreign-born inventors account for nearly half of all U.S. patents. By 2010, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers could be living in Asia. This is a major challenge to our leadership, but America must keep pace.
Unfortunately, current 12th grade students perform below the international average on general tests of math and science, and the number of engineering degrees awarded in the U.S. has declined by 20 percent since 1985. Continued loss of innovative leadership means the loss of our position as the world's economic engine, and ultimately an exodus of jobs from our shores. We must ensure this does not happen. Fortunately, we can address this challenge knowing we have the resources - both public and private - to be successful.
The federal government has a number of options to promote education in math and science, including targeted undergraduate financial aid and scholarships. This type of investment provides almost incalculable returns to the tax payer. Because no matter what our country does to promote innovation in the business community we must have the minds to make it work.
It's also important to encourage research and development, the bedrock of innovation. Past public funding has resulted in the development of the semiconductor, the Internet, and GPS technology. To ensure our scientists have the funding to make the next big breakthrough, I signed on as an original cosponsor of legislation to permanently extend the research tax credit.
Additionally, innovation depends on the ability of business to operate free from overly burdensome regulation. I understand that regulatory and tax burdens often times tie the hands of business. We must allow businesses to use their resources to innovate, not force businesses to use them to comply with government red tape. I support measures such as a permanent moratorium on internet taxes and patent reform to make certain that businesses devote their energy to addressing the needs of their customers, not the government.
Bill Gates has said that, "Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time". I believe this is true, and it is in America's interest to be the leader of this age of innovation. Our future depends on it.